Film Review: National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
In 1989, Jeremiah Chechik released National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation as the third installment in National Lampoon’s Vacation series. Based on the John Hughes short story “Christmas ‘59” in National Lampoon magazine, the film stars Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo, Randy Quaid, Juliette Lewis, Johnny Galecki, John Randolph, Diane Ladd, E. G. Marshall, Doris Roberts, Miriam Flynn, Cody Burger, Ellen Hamilton Latzen, William Hickey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Brian Doyle-Murray, and Mae Questel. The film grossed $71.3 million at the box office and had the only sequel in the Vacation series: a 2003 made-for-TV film known as National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation 2: Cousin Eddie’s Island Adventure.
When Clark Griswold decides to host what seems to be his entire extended family at his house for the holiday season, plus his own parents and senile Aunt Bethany. However, his possibly inbred cousin-in-law Eddie shows up as well and everything goes horribly wrong.
The only film in the Vacation series that takes place at the Griswold home National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is a hilarious film that’s usually one of the more modern choices for Christmas viewing. The film does have a lot of truly hilarious moments, such as the frustration Clark has when trying to make his Christmas lights work. It’s funny to see him constantly keep trying to turn them on, only to think that when they do finally turn on, it’s his doing when in reality it’s always because a garage switch that he didn’t even think about was tripped. The amount of lights Clark puts up also contributes to the film’s humor in a much more obvious way. Namely because he put up enough to make the city’s power plant have to turn on a backup emergency power supply. The humor also starts right away, as it usually does with these films, with the Griswold family heading to cut down a Christmas tree, only to forget a saw and come home with an uprooted tree with “Oh Come All ye Faithful” in the background. Clark also lets off a hilarious rant when he realizes his Christmas bonus is a membership into the Jelly of the Month club rather than money, calling his boss, among other names “snake-licking,” ‘dog-kissing,” “dickless,” and “spotty-lipped.”
But the humor doesn’t just revolve around Clark, his house and the many members of his family. His next door neighbors, Todd and Margo, are constantly collateral damage that get caught in the crossfire of Clark’s misfortunes. When Clark is putting up all those lights, he almost falls off the roof and what ice there is in the gutter shatters their upstairs window. Further, when the lights do eventually come on, they are blinded and knock over furniture when they stumble around trying to regain their sight. A different window of theirs is smashed when Clark cuts down a second tree, which crashes through their dining room window. Margo also decides to confront Clark in the latter half of the film, just in time for the Griswold family to flee a squirrel in their tree. Before Margo can knock on the door, Clark opens it and the squirrel runs straight into her along with Eddie’s dog which is chasing it. Though some couple getting caught in this holiday frenzy wouldn’t usually be funny, it is when it comes to Todd and Margo, considering they are shallow, smug, and completely self-absorbed.
The film isn’t completely humor, though. It has a lot of sweet, heartwarming moments, Take the time when Clark finds himself locked in the attic. While he’s up there, he finds old recordings of childhood Christmases. Him watching the home movies shows the audience why he’s been doing what he set out to do during the course of the film. He doesn’t want any old fashioned family Christmas, he wants to bring the magic of his old Christmastimes. It interestingly gives him more depth as a character, which makes his rant at the end of the film make a lot of sense. But in the end, even though Christmas was an insane disaster, he does get what he wants. Even though he loses his sanity and almost dies, he does get a loving family experience and even shares it with Eddie’s dog, who everyone had been afraid to touch during the film, by petting him.
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